Los Altos finds new city manager: Danville's Marcia Somers assumes new role in April

  • February 29, 2012

By Diego Abeloos

The city of Los Altos is poised to name Marcia Somers as its new city manager pending city council approval Tuesday. Somers is believed to be the second woman to serve as Los Altos’ city manager after Diane Gershuny, who resigned in 1997.

A discussion item was placed on the council’s agenda Feb. 28 – after the Town Crier’s press deadline – to approve an employment agreement between the city and Somers, who has served as the assistant town manager for the city of Danville since 2006.

Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter told the Town Crier she’s pleased the city’s five-month search for the retiring Doug Schmitz’s replacement is over – pending the council’s final approval of Somers’ contract. Carpenter said Somers appealed to city leadership for a variety of reasons, including her experience in developing civic facilities.

According to the city staff report, Somers oversaw a number of capital projects during her tenure in Danville, including a 17-acre community park development, the renovation of the town’s historical Village Theatre and the restoration of its Veterans Memorial Building.

Somers told the Town Crier it was a combination of factors that attracted her to the city manager’s position, including Los Altos’ small-town atmosphere.

“I have really enjoyed Danville because of its small-town character,” said Somers, a 29-year Campbell resident who initially joined Danville’s staff as community services director in 1993. “I wanted to be somewhere that had that same sort of environment. (Los Altos) is very similar, and I like that feel.”

Carpenter said Somers’ development experience is crucial to Los Altos, noting the city’s efforts to move forward with its civic center master plan this year.

“She brings a really nice management style that I think will fit in well with our community,” Carpenter said of Somers, who will start her new job April 2.

Somers said she would enjoy the challenge of juggling multiple developments in a city that values its traditions.

“With Los Altos, similar to the situation in Danville, it’s a smaller community surrounded by larger, more urban communities,” she said. “Maintaining that uniqueness that Los Altos enjoys is important, but it’s also important for business in town to have the civic improvements it needs.”

Carpenter added that Somers has already been actively trying to integrate into the Los Altos community. She attended the city council’s annual retreat in December to get acquainted with the city’s public processes.

Somers said another reason for her attendance was to determine whether her skills and professional desires were a match.

“I have always been of the opinion that it’s a two-way street,” Somers said. “It’s not just the organization selecting you – you select them as well.”

Carpenter noted that Schmitz agreed to stay for an undetermined period of time in April to help Somers acclimate to her new role. Schmitz, who was hired by the city in 2007, was originally slated to retire March 31.

The staff report included details regarding Somers’ proposed compensation. Her contract includes $196,000 in annual base pay and a $300 monthly vehicle allowance.

Prior to her employment in Danville, Somers spent more than eight years working for the city of Sunnyvale. She earned a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State East Bay, according to the report.

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